Written by: LaShawn Encarnacion aka The Dark Knight of Sports
With two games into the NFL under glass (Colts vs Jets only exception as they play tonight), it is safe to begin to determine who is in control of their playoff destinies, who can simply say “Forget about it” and those teams who can say “So you’re saying there’s a chance.”
In the history of the NFL, it is not common for a team who starts with a record of 0-2 to come back and make the playoffs. But it has been done in recent years. Teams like the New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers to name a couple of the top of the dome. So for the purpose of this article, lets focus on those 0-2 teams who were talked about as potential playoff teams to begin the season, makes it easier.
In the AFC there are two teams currently holding an 0-2 record. Three if the Colts lose to the Jets tonight, so lets leave them out
The Houston Texans:
The Texans have the defensive pieces, there is no question about it. Reigning defensive player of the year, J.J. Watt finally has his rushing mate in fellow pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney and newly acquired nose tackle Vince Wilfork plugging up the middle. So you would think the Texans would ave one win already, if not two.
The problem lies on the offensive side of the ball, particularly at quarterback where they continue to be in limbo as to who is the man to lead them. They started the season with journeyman Brian Hoyer, who they had brought in from Cleveland, thinking some of that magic he spread over the Browns would be spread on the Texans.
Like clockwork, Hoyer reminded the Texans exactly why he is not a consistent starter in the NFL, turnover after turnover week one, he was benched for Ryan Mallet who gave the Texans a spark late in their week one loss. If Mallet can make good decisions, the Texas may have a chance still.
The Baltimore Ravens:
Most had the Ravens winning the AFC North division outright in 2015. However the Ravens have not met those expectations. They took a hard loss week one against the Broncos in their opening game and then heir defense allowed young up-and-coming QB Derek Carr of the Oakland Raiders to lead a last drive that ended in the end zone and a victory for the Raiders with the Ravens taking their second loss of the season.
Do you think the defense misses Terrell Suggs and his leadership? Its very possible if you compare the times that former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was out and how those Ravens defense’s decline in play simply with him. The youth of the Ravens defense is getting exposed, never more obvious than against the Raiders and their young leader Carr.
But with the veterans on offense and a savvy head coach like John Harbaugh, the Ravens can still figure things out as they have their fellow AFC North division rivals to deal with.
Those are your AFC teams and now lets move onto the NFC. Reminding you that these teams are based on expert preseason picks to make the playoffs in 2015.
The Seattle Seahawks:
IF there were ANY example of what ONE player means to a team on the field and what they do it is the absence of Kam Chancellor to the Seattle Seahawks. The pick most had returning to the Super Bowl for a third time, the Seahawks got out-played on the defensive side of the ball against the St. Louis Rams in week one and then out-classed on defense against arguably the best quarterback in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers.
It is obvious there is a hole in the defensive secondary, a secondary that once was considered the BEST in the NFL and arguably one of the best EVER. The loss of Chancellor is not the only issue facing the Seahawks, there is problems with play calling and game management on the offensive side as well. Too much reliance on the read-option and running the ball out of said read-option. Does 4th and 1 against the Rams in week 1 ring a bell? Or does the last play ran by the Seahawks in Super Bowl 49 need to be brought up yet again?
Bottom line the Seahawks can get things back under control and make the playoffs. They just need to get Kam Chancellor BACK into camp and re-evaluate their short yardage play calls moving forward.
The Philadelphia Eagles:
The Eagles are on this list because they have too much offensive skill players to not ignore them. But that offensive line STINKS. It is completely unorganized, dysfunctional and could not block a feather blowing towards them by a gentle breeze.
The defense has kept them close in games but that offensive line is atrocious and it is no wonder that Sam Bradford, who lets remember already has had numerous injuries, is playing like a “Deer in headlights.” Bradford is not to blame for the Eagles 0-2 start. That offensive line is the primary season. Second is coach Chip Kelly’s play-calling. Some continue to call Kelly a genius, but in this early 2015 season, looking more like a looney tune. CAN the Eagles figure things out?
There has to be hope because an offensive line cannot be THIS bad for an entire season … could they?
Just another reminder JUST how important AND under-appreciated the offensive line REALLY is in the sport of football.
The Detroit Lions:
The losses of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley are or are not the season for the Lions 0-2 start. But a good amount of experts had them making the playoffs because of the offensive side of the ball.
Weapons like Calvin Johnson and Eric Ebron receiving darts from Matthew Stafford and the emergence of their rookie, Ameer Abdullah gave HIGH hopes for the Lions. Golden Tate continues to wow the offensive side of the ball, taking heat off the man known as MEGATRON.
So that brings it back to the defensive side of the ball. Suh is a once in a generation player and his loss is no doubt felt. The presence and pressure he brings has elevated the Miami Dolphins defense while hurting the Lions defense since his departure.
CAN the Lions recover? If players like Haloti Ngata and Ezekiel Ansah can elevate their play and if their counterparts can do the same. Not likely but there is always a chance once division play gets underway consistently.
The New York Football Giants:
DON’T get me started with the Giants number one problem. It is not on the defensive side of the ball. It is not on the offensive side of the ball … per say. It all comes to ONE THING … clock management. Two games, two games that with better clock management could have the New York Giants at 2-0 and NOT 0-2.
The ‘hound-dog” persona that is Eli Manning continues to frustrate Giants fans and now the shouts of “Fire Tom Coughlin” are starting yet again from the tops of skyscrapers in Gotham City. Odell Beckham Jr. woke up last week against the Falcons (hooray for fantasy owners), but in the end win/loss record makes the playoffs, not OBJ’s fantasy stats alone.
The ONE constant that is obvious is game calling and clock management and that falls mostly to the head coach and offensive coordinator. Eli can make the decision on the field, YES, but most quarterbacks will not go against their coach publicly like that.
CAN the Giants turn things around and make the playoffs. Most certainly for as stated before, the New York Giants were seconds in BOTH games from being 2-0 as oppose to their current record of 0-2.
SORRY Bears fans but NO ONE predicted you to be in this years playoff picture so you do not get this honor.
FYI: Be sure to follow me on Twitter: @TheDarkTruthASN
AND catch my weekly podcast “The Dark Truth” every Monday evening. 10 PM CT, 8 PM Pacific.